Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Full Circle Teaching / Enkyo, 2011
IN BODY-MIND practices, we aspire to “ground” ourselves, to “go inside ourselves” or to “reconnect with the Earth.” Gradually, this effort transforms to a quite different aspiration. The transformation takes some time because the authentic place of arrival is counter-intuitive. Paradoxically, to “go inside,” we go “inside” that which we vulgarly or popularly define as the “outside.” With repeated practice, the sense of apartness from our sensory experiences dissolves. Like Thoreau at Walden, “solitude” opens to an inseparable tapestry of universal companionship.
In Centering In Pottery, Poetry, And The Person [Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1962], Mary Caroline Richards suggests that centering yourself is not, finally, inside. Rather, it is “a state of total being.”
This centering or grounding is not only inseparable from any of our sensory experiences and all landscapes or "space," but also awakens a sense of ourselves as woven deeply into "time" far beyond the immanent moment. In adulthood, childhood is still there in each of us. It is still a state of being and not just a stage of life. And deeper than even this step back in time, the ancestors move in our gestures. And aunt or uncle may remark that we smile or move our hands like an aunt or uncle. And perhaps there are other gestures that continue to be expressed by us that come from generations past that are unknown now to any living elders. In an indigenous arctic culture, it has been said that one's voice is the soul of an ancestor, and the hair another, and on and on, as if each individual is a collective of "living" ancestry as much as a person in one's own right. And in body-mind practices, we meld with qualities that might be found in practitioners who originated the practice. It is as if they are carrying forward in our practice.
Every cultural product—aspirin, wall paint, a watch, window glass, clothing—is the consequence of the contribution of millions of human beings. Similarly, every piece of present knowledge—bacterial infection, tectonic plates, the composition of air—is the consequence of the contributions of millions. And every natural event, including our bodies, is a consequence of billions of myriad processes.
Feeling “grounded,” each of us and every event is more like a wave in an oceanus of being. And somewhat mind-bending, each of us and every event, no matter how remote each event may appear to be from the others, is at center point. Again, centering is “a state of total being.” We can be ego-centric and anthropocentric, but also Earth-centric and Universe(s)-centric.
Still, it is not as if one comes to know all aspects of “total being.” At its ultimate, awareness of this state can remain vague or implicit rather than explicit, and this state can also be transitory and elusive rather than finally attained. But when authentic, it is not esoteric. It is practical and meaningful and functional.
At center point, there is a strong sense of practical, calming harmony and balance. Without this center point, we can lose ourselves in the everyday details of our life, and lose a sense of harmony and balance. The body-mind practices are longstanding recipes that have been refined through the efforts of countless others to provide a way to access this state of being rather than completely attain it—to allow returns rather than completion.